While the industry and many experts have touted fall as an exceptional time for planting, many of you out there remain unconvinced. I am not talking about waiting until after the last of the turkey is consumed at Thanksgiving dinner to plant your entire garden bed for next year, but certain plants do very well (actually better) planted in fall, so let’s find out what garden planting can be done now to avoid clogging the planting schedule in spring and to establish your new plant BEFORE growing season begins.
Many perennials are very happy about a dig and split this time of year. I wouldn’t do my delicate little rock garden specimens this time of year, but you know who your garden bruisers are; the bee-balm, the Shasta daisies, those cone flowers, hostas, iris, sedums… you know who we’re talking about. If they don’t give you any trouble the rest of the year (except for crowding neighbors), they are perfect candidates for a fall split.
Need a lot more plants? Split them in four or more smaller pieces and replant (it’ll take longer for them to get back to size, but you’ll have more). Don’t need a lot (or any) more but the plant needs splitting anyway? Right down the middle and you’ll have two the same size as the one you split next year. Perennials need the splitting to stay fresh and productive, and every three years or so is a must, so why wait for spring?
Bulbs are a mainstay of the spring garden, but need the vernalization (over-wintering) to flower then, so now is the time to plant them! Pick the bulbs that work for your area and climate and make sure to follow instructions on depth and placement. Summer flowering bulbs could go in in the spring, but this is still a good time. Trouble with squirrels or chipmunks digging them back out? Stake down chicken wire after planting and mulch over it. You won’t notice it, but Mr. Rodent sure will when he goes after them…
Trees and shrubs are often happy to be planted in the fall, but there are exceptions. Birches, for instance, are famous in the plant industry for being finicky in fall; better planted from a container than a balled and burlapped specimen and NEVER transplanted.
Evergreen plants that will be counting on intact, established root systems for sustenance are usually best left until spring, but most deciduous plants go fully dormant in winter and will root very nicely as long as soil temperatures are in the forties. Planting now gives them a chance to begin establishing roots so when spring arrives they are ready to go, not recovering from transplant shock.
As always, watering deeply is essential to remove air pockets around roots; avoid the fertilizer this time of year, although adding miccorhizhal supplements, either purchased or homemade (compost or compost tea), is a great way to assist your roots in getting started. While fall planting won’t go much further into this season (regularly freezing nights is a clear indicator to forgo late planting), this is a great way to give many of your new garden plants a years head start on becoming a mature and beautiful addition to your garden.